You may have seen the fake Twitter account, @Breaking9ll, with a similar look and feel to the popular @Breaking911 news account. However, when you follow that account, you may have noticed a tweet sharing a photo of a burning McDonalds. Although the photo was not taken in Minneapolis, it was made to look like it was related to the protests and supposedly came from Breaking911 itself.
Impersonation of Breaking911
While it’s easy to see why Twitter users are concerned about the spread of misinformation, the rise of clever impersonator accounts and news aggregators is also a concern. One such example is a recent post about a McDonald’s burning in Minneapolis, which was shared by a parody account. In fact, the burning McDonald’s was not in Minneapolis, but rather, a photo of a burning fast food joint that was made to look like it was connected to the protests.
While the site’s influence is limited, the impersonation of Breaking911 has spread misleading information online. Oftentimes, the account strips out context from tweets and replaces it with its own description, with no attribution. Additionally, the text tweets that the account posts do not link to sources or list them. Although the site has been influential enough to draw attention, it remains unclear who runs the account and what the standards are for contributors’ work.
While many journalists are concerned about the lack of attribution on breaking911 news tweets, the website does not appear to be the only source. Breaking911 has received a large number of followers and engagements since late May, according to Social Blade, a social media analytics website. Breaking911’s posts have also been embedded in articles by major news organizations. Moreover, the site regularly receives thousands of engagements on Twitter and Facebook. Additionally, its posts are frequently shared on video platforms and forums.
A recent Twitter account attributed to Breaking911 has been caught making factual mistakes. The Twitter handle was spotted tweeting video of a protest in Austin, Texas, with the caption “InfoWars truck is welcomed to LA.” But this is a misunderstanding. The truck parked outside Austin was actually in Asheville, North Carolina. It is possible that the Twitter account has been spoofing for years, but the accounts have never changed their tweets to reflect this.
Earlier this year, a photo of a burning McDonald’s quickly spread throughout social media amid protests against police brutality. The image, which was posted by the bogus account “@Breaking9ll,” was later proven to be a fake. The fake account claimed credit for the image. But, after further investigation, Snopes found that the photo was a grease fire. That’s the worst part.
Reported ISIS tweets
Earlier this week, an anti-Islam activist made a disturbing claim. She claims that an ISIS supporter tweeted a warning prior to the Chattanooga shooting, which left five servicemen dead. But, the ISIS “warning” was not a warning at all; it was eerie post-attack commentary. Geller should not jump to conclusions based on the timestamps of Twitter tweets.
In Figure 4, the number of accounts with ISIS mentions is compared with the total number of accounts. The graph shows that approximately 50 percent of the remaining accounts mentioned ISIS less than 10 times in their timeline. That means that only about 63k of these accounts were actively engaged in the topic. The remainder of the accounts only mentioned ISIS a single time. This means that the tweets reported on breaking911 are not representative of the entire ISIS social network.
Sources of information
According to Kate Starbird, an associate professor at the University of Washington who studies how information spreads in crisis situations, the Twitter account Breaking911 is part of a “class” of such accounts. However, her recent findings show that the account frequently gets simple facts wrong. In one recent tweet, it captioned a video of a truck from InfoWars, saying “Welcome to LA!” Interestingly, the website of the information website actually says that it happened in Austin. Another instance involves a tweet saying “InformationWars truck welcomes LA” while in fact the truck was in Asheville, NC.
Despite this fact, Breaking911 has seen a dramatic increase in followers since late May, according to social media analytics site Social Blade. Many major journalists follow the account and some of its posts are embedded in articles by major news organizations. Furthermore, its posts regularly receive thousands of Facebook and Twitter engagements, and are re-posted on forums and video platforms. This trend may be indicative of its popularity, as it has led to numerous copycat accounts, some of which have been inundated with inaccurate information.